Men’s Soccer: Wildcats ‘close up shop’ on Ohio State to advance to semifinal

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Men’s Soccer: Wildcats ‘close up shop’ on Ohio State to advance to semifinal

Northwestern midfielder Kyle Shickel celebrates after his goal against Ohio State. Shickel scored one of the Cats' two goals Wednesday evening.

Northwestern midfielder Kyle Shickel celebrates after his goal against Ohio State. Shickel scored one of the Cats' two goals Wednesday evening.

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern midfielder Kyle Shickel celebrates after his goal against Ohio State. Shickel scored one of the Cats' two goals Wednesday evening.

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern midfielder Kyle Shickel celebrates after his goal against Ohio State. Shickel scored one of the Cats' two goals Wednesday evening.

Ava Wallace, Online Sports Editor

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Ohio State was playing catch up after just about six minutes.

Five minutes later, Northwestern scored its second goal of the night, and the Buckeyes spent their last 80 minutes in the Big Ten Tournament throwing everything they had at the Wildcats. Ohio State played hard but to no avail against tournament host and second seed NU. The Cats won their first-round game in the Big Ten Tournament 2-0 against the seventh seeded Buckeyes on Wednesday night at Lakeside Field.

Players old and new were responsible for the Cats’ quick scores.

Senior forward Kyle Schickel clocked his first goal since Sept. 14 off a free kick from sophomore defender Grant Wilson. The set piece was Wilson’s seventh assist this season, and he is now tied for third-most assists in the conference this year. The defender also leads the Wildcats in the category.

Schickel also tallied an assist after his goal. Freshman forward Joey Calistri capitalized on Schickel’s through-ball and challenged Ohio State goalkeeper Alex Wimmer. With quick feet, Calistri found the back of the Buckeyes’ net and effectively sealed the deal for NU.

Calistri’s goal was his eighth for the season, which makes the freshman NU’s leading scorer by three goals. Coach Tim Lenahan was happy with his team’s effectiveness in facilitating Calistri’s goal but was particularly pleased with Schickel’s performance in what could have been the senior’s last game.

“For me, who was great tonight was Kyle Schickel, who has not been on the scoreboard for a long time,” Lenahan said. “When your senior gets a goal and assist in a game like this that’s a good thing.”

The two goals set the tone for the rest of the game. Both teams played frantically from the beginning, and it was clear a few days of rest — six for NU, just three for Ohio State — had served the players well.

The Cats in particular came out firing and ended the half with 6 shots, half of which were on goal. Ohio State challenged NU’s defense with 4 shots, but the back line kept reigning in Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Chris Hegngi and the rest of the Buckeyes’ forwards far from sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Miller.

Miller had only one save for the game, his 17th career shutout, and can now claim sole possession of the second-most shutouts all-time for NU.

“I thought the first 20 minutes we played really well, and then we scored the two goals and we closed up shop,” Lenahan said. “And unfortunately that’s the way it is sometimes – we don’t order it, it just happens.”

Even after the two goals, the Cats continued to dominate for the rest of the first half in nearly every category, which Schickel said was a necessity.

“We didn’t want a team like Ohio State to linger around,” Schickel said. “They have some dangerous players up top and they could be more dangerous towards the end of the game.”
Schickel’s words proved true, and the two teams battled on more even footing during the second period.

NU continued to play a fast-paced, aggressive game, but Ohio State stepped up to match the Cats’ high intensity. The Buckeyes shot seven times compared to the Cats’ five.
Hegngi and Ohio State’s leading scorer Austin McAnena outran NU in the midfield multiple times for strong chances in the Cats’ defensive territory but were often unable to get close enough for an on-target shot. Out of Ohio State’s 11 total shots, only one was on goal, wide to Miller’s right.

Though Lenahan said he would have liked his team to take advantages of more offensive opportunities, Wilson said the defensive line could have been more assertive in the second half.

“We would have liked it to be a little easier at the end, but we can’t complain about the win — all Big Ten games are tough,” Wilson said. “So we kind of had to bunker down in the last 20 to 15 minutes. They had a lot of attacking options on us.”

NU spent much of the second half fending off Ohio State’s offensive plays without laying off offensively. This makes the team’s first priority before facing Michigan, who beat Wisconsin on Wednesday afternoon 2-1, rest.

“First we got to get our legs back,” Lenahan said. “We made that game a little harder than it could have been – Ohio State really threw everything at us the last half and we really just hung on, and we used a lot of energy doing that.”

Schickel acknowledges Michigan’s all-around athleticism as the Wolverines’ main asset, though Wilson said Michigan’s offensive line and two outside backs will demand extra vigilance from NU’s defenders.

Lenahan noted the Wolverine’s success of late – the team is now on a 4-game win streak – as another challenge the Cats will have to overcome Friday afternoon.

“Michigan is a much improved team form when we saw them before. They’re playing really well, they’re in contention for an NCAA tournament bid and I think it’s going to be a great game,” Lenahan said. “We’re going to have our hands full on Friday.”

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